General, U.S. Army
Chair of Board of Directors, Miracles in Sight
There was something special about Dr. Robert Enzenauer’s high school in South Saint Louis. He was one of four from his graduating class who were accepted into prestigious West Point Military Academy.
While deciding between there and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Dr. Enzenauer says that having three high school friends heading to West Point made his decision rather easy.
Dr. Enzenauer says he knew from around age 11 that he wanted to attend West Point – although he’s unsure exactly why. Laughing, he says, “It could have just been from the movies.” His father was a WWII Army veteran who painted houses, and Dr. Enzenauer was the first of his family to attend college. “Going into West Point, I had no idea what to expect,” Dr. Enzenauer says. “I am proud to have finished. My class started at about 1,300 students and only 870 graduated.”
Following West Point, Dr. Enzenauer attended medical school at the University of Missouri, with the intention of being a heart surgeon. He quickly shifted his focus to pediatrics, and eventually added a second residency in ophthalmology. While working at Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in Colorado, Dr. Enzenauer’s path crossed with Dean Vavra’s (CEO, Miracles in Sight) for the first of many instances throughout his career. Following his time at Fitzsimons, Dr. Enzenauer had stops at the Rocky Mountain Eye Bank, and the University of Tennessee. In 1994 he left active duty and retired as a LTC Lieutenant Colonel, and petitioned the Secretary of the Army, Togo West, to join the National Guard. So, in 1995 he joined the Colorado National Guard as a flight surgeon. He subsequently convinced Dean to join with him around 1998, to finish up his time in the Reserve Component to qualify for a military retirement.
After 9/11, Dr. Enzenauer was activated, along with Dean, to go to Afghanistan for about eight months. While there, he performed ocular surgeries, on not only soldiers but Afghan children. As one can imagine, the operating conditions were “primitive” at best. “The operating microscope I was using was literally in a box from 1986,” Dr. Enzenauer says, “I was forced to be flexible and make the best of what I had. I wasn’t going to let someone go blind just because I didn’t have the best equipment.”
Conditions aside, Dr. Enzenauer says he enjoyed his time in Afghanistan, and adds it to a considerable list of places he’s visited while serving, including Thailand, the Philippines, Jordan, Honduras, Panama, Haiti, and Uganda. The Philippines sticks out as a favorite to him saying, “There are great people everywhere, but the people in the Philippines were just exceptional.”
Returning to the U.S., Dr. Enzenauer went to the Children’s Hospital at the University of Colorado, where he still practices in his specialty of pediatric ophthalmology. He also Chairs the Board of Directors at Miracles in Sight and serves as an Associate Medical Director. He plans to continue eye banking as long as Dean does.
Dr. Enzenauer says people can probably tell he has a military background because he “hates whiners,” and has learned to be flexible and adapt to any circumstances.
He would also recommend military service to others considering being doctors, saying, “As long as you’re willing to say, ‘Yes, sir’, and drop everything to go to Iraq, it’s a great thing. It helped me pay for college and medical school.”